NMU lawsuit involving gender discrimination continues in federal court

MARQUETTE –A gender discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Northern Michigan University by four of its professors is continuing in federal court.

Last February, Sterling Attorneys at Law, P.C. filed a private gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a few select NMU professors. The four professors, Claudia L. Hart, Carol S. Steinhaus, Karin M. Stulz, and Margaret E. Vroman, which are all professors at NMU’s College of Business.

According to the lawsuit, the four plaintiffs were paid ranging from 9 percent to more than 70 percent less than their equally-qualified male counterparts at the university.

The professors’ attorney, Brian J. Farrar, said in a statement, “Academic institutions like NMU play an important role in shaping future leaders. When the University refuses to follow gender equality laws, what kind of message does this send to its students?”

The lawsuit alleges years of gender discrimination at the hands of college administrators and that the College of Business significantly underpays its female faculty compared to their male counterparts and denies them equal opportunities for tenure and other benefits.

When plaintiffs complained to NMU’s administration about gender
discrimination, the plaintiff’s attorneys charge, several male faculty members and administrators, including Joel Thompson and Dale Kapla, retaliated against plaintiffs by disparaging their work, canceling their classes and programs, or increasing their workloads without additional compensation.

The professors are seeking punitive damages in whatever amount the court finds them to be entitled to, equitable relief, interest as an element of damages, statutory interest, and attorney fees and costs.

The lawsuit is pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

In response to the lawsuit, NMU released the following statement:

NMU received the complaint February 13, 2019 and is being reviewed by legal counsel.

As a practice, NMU will not comment concerning details of pending litigation or personnel matters. NMU officials did recently attend a conciliation meeting with an EEOC mediator seeking to resolve the fair employment complaint.

The complainants disregarded the EEOC suggested parameters for a possible settlement and thus no agreement was made and the process continues. NMU hopes to work towards a resolution in a timely manner.

Faculty salaries are dependent upon credentials, degrees, teaching area, and research and are based upon negotiated formulas with the faculty union. NMU officials comply with the collective bargaining agreement.